I think using student response systems as a formative assessment is pedagogically sound. I don’t want to say that I jump on the technology bandwagons, but I do like to explore the constantly evolving tech landscape. In the past five years there have been numerous systems in place: ActiVotes, ActivExpressions, ActivEngage, Socrative, and finally Infuse Learning. Yes, in five years I have had five different tools for formative assessment. The first three changes were out of my control. The first two, ActiVotes and ActivExpressions, were physical devices that we kept on the desks in cute baskets. The ActivEngage was a program that had to be installed on the student netbooks.
After those were redistributed to other teachers, I had to find my own solution. I found and fell in love with Socrative. I have supplemented my use of Socrative with the extra question options in Infuse Learning. Socrative is web based, but there is an iOS app that makes it easy for students to use. Infuse Learning is just web based with a mobile friendly (but not Internet Explorer friendly) website.
There is a great blog post by Bob Deneau that compares the features of Socrative and Infuse Learning. His conclusion was that both are great tools and the final decision comes down to teacher preference. I’m taking the analysis a step further and I’m saying that the benefit of the tool can be determined on a task-by-task basis.
Socrative wins in my book for the ease of access. The wi-fi network slows down at inconvenient times during the day. The app is direct; the students do not have to log in to a netbook and go through a series of links to arrive at Socrative. Instead, they can access it in a single click on their own device.
I also love the ease of creating quizzes and re-using them for multiple classes on Socrative. I even leave practice quizzes overnight so students can use it to study on their own time. I do wish that multiple choice answers could be duplicated with a single click. Frequently I want the same possibilities for multiple questions.
Infuse Learning wins for the layers of options. On top of the multiple choice questions and short answers that Socrative offers, they also have draw response, true/false*, sort & order*, numeric, and Likert scale*. The starred* options offer sub choices. For example, true/falso questions can also include IDK. That way responses are not skewed for lucky guesses. The Likert scale offers the option for a confidence poll, which I like to use after new material is presented.
The coolest option by far is drawing. This can not be part of a programmed quiz, but it is perfect for on the fly formative assessment. It is easiest with a touch screen device, but can be done with less artist flare using a netbook touchpad.
The activity where I first tried incorporating the drawing on Infuse Learning was the clothing unit. My students were using a variety of devices – including just the mouse pad on a netbook. These are images of students responses from yesterday’s activity. There was a variety of artistic skills displayed, but they all achieved the learning goal of demonstrating understanding of vocabulary for clothing and a review of colors and adjectives. I’ve used traditional whiteboards, but did not have enough for each student and we were limited to a couple colors. Using Infuse Learning, I see the response from every single student in a wide variety of colors. They were so proud of their work. The laughter over some of the pictures made the learning environment positive and amusing. No one was ashamed of their work because it was challenging to use a mouse pad on the net books. There was some frustration with the slowness of the wi-fi signal or the delays on the website. At one point everyone was kicked off and had to log back in to the room. The positives far outweighed the negatives.
The clothing vocabulary practice went so well with my 6th grade Spanish students that I decided to try it with 8th grade since we had an extra 10 minutes after a quiz. They illustrated an entire phrase, which raised the level of complexity (and also humor.) I liked that I was able to be spontaneous; there was no pre planning necessary. I know I could set things up ahead of time, but many times formative assessment is based on what is going on in the moment.